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London bankers brace for thousands of job cuts

With banks such as HSBC and Deutsche Bank preparing to shed numbers, recruiters predict that more than 5,000 jobs will be lost by the end of the year

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The banking industry is feeling the strain of shaky markets, trade tensions and automation, all of which are causing a steady drop in employment.

London

A BANKER who lost his job as part of Nomura Holdings Inc. cuts recalls the camaraderie at the riverside Oyster Shed bar next to the institution's London headquarters one evening as the room filled with ex-employees.

Japan's biggest brokerage let about 30 people go that day in April. Summer has arrived in London, but the smiles are likely to remain frozen in the financial community as HSBC Holdings Plc and Deutsche Bank AG join Nomura in implementing thousands of job reductions.

"It's one of the worst London job markets I have ever seen outside of a crisis," said Stephane Rambosson, founder of Vici Advisory, a London-based executive search firm. "I think there's a real possibility that you could see more than 5,000 jobs lost by the end of the year."

Cuts are concentrated at non-US investment banks. Experienced bankers have seen contractions before, but there's a feeling this time is different. It's not just shaky markets, trade tensions and Brexit: Automation is making some banking skills obsolete.

The scale of job losses and changes in the industry are forcing bankers to examine all manner of alternatives, including blockchain, cannabis and even agriculture.

"People are stressed out and desperately looking for new things, because they know it's not going to be easy to find a job at another bank," said Mr Rambosson, himself a former investment banker.

There has been a steady drop in investment-bank employment since 2013, according to Coalition Development Ltd. data, when UK headcount in front-office roles totalled just under 17,000.

By 2016, that had dropped to 15,000. By the end of last year, almost 1,500 further jobs had been eliminated.

"Things will get worse," said Amrit Shahani, research director at Coalition. "We expect a further 10 per cent reduction in investment bank headcount in the UK over the next two years, partly due to Brexit job moves. This year, the UK will see double the headcount reduction of previous years, due to lower revenues at investment banks."

Figures from recruitment consultants Morgan McKinley show the scale of the slowdown in the City job market. In May, 2,369 new financial-services jobs were listed, a drop of 50 per cent year-on-year, even as the number of job seekers held steady at just under 4,000.

Brexit relocations add to the tally. Figures published by the EY consultancy this month put planned moves to other EU countries at 7,000, of which almost 1,000 have already happened.

For the 9,000 UK staff at Deutsche Bank, the rounds of restructuring may seem endless. On Friday, people familiar with the matter said the bank was preparing to start eliminating up to half the jobs in its global equity division. Even Garth Ritchie - who runs the investment bank in London - may soon be replaced as part of a cull that could see as many as 20,000 jobs lost around the world, the people said.

At HSBC, at least 500 jobs could go within global banking and markets, people familiar with the matter said in May, with London likely to be in the front line of the cull.

Ultimately, bankers face the rise of the robots. Big banks have increased their investment in IT and collectively are spending tens of billions of dollars a year across their businesses to automate jobs currently done by humans. BLOOMBERG